Friday, June 14, 2013

For The Dad Who Takes No Delight In Father’s Day

~ by guest blogger, John P. Knight ~

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13, ESV)
If you’re a man reading this blog, you’re probably a dad of a child with a disability.  And if you’re like most of us dads, you didn’t choose this life. I’m guessing it is harder than anything you’ve ever experienced before.

You’re not alone.

I remember feeling alone, especially in those early months.  Nobody understood what it was really like, it seemed.  A social worker invited us to a parent meeting and that was even worse – they understood, but they were all so sad or angry or resigned to life. We didn’t go back to that parent group.

Those were dark days, made even darker when I realized the doctors and specialists and educators thought dads were mostly there as a checkbook and an insurance card.

And Father’s Day?  All those happy images of dads playing ball with their sons or fishing or just enjoying each other’s company certainly didn’t apply to my situation.

But God gave me a gift that I wasn’t asking for.  His name was Karl. 

He wasn’t a dad of a disabled child; he was ‘just’ a godly man.  There was nothing I could do or say that could stop him from having a positive regard for me, and I certainly tried to stop him.  He confounded me with his confidence in this horrible God who had done such a cruel thing to me as to give me a child with multiple disabilities.  He confused me with his love for me and for my family.  His entire family behaved the same way.

His hope in God was so unshakable in the face of all my contrary evidence that I wanted to be in his presence.

Then God crushed me by giving me a glimpse of my sin.  For the first time I knew that my son’s disabilities were not my primary problem – my sin was killing me and would keep me from God for eternity.

But for Jesus.

In faith I grabbed hold of Jesus as my righteousness and desperately wanted to know more about him.  In hindsight, I can see that it was all part of God’s plan to use my son to change me, to help me see that my sad, small, proud life was leading me to wasting my life here and an eternity of pain forever.

God also opened my eyes to all the men around me who loved me.  My father had been the first to really understand the value of my son.  My pastors never gave up on my when I had entirely rejected God and his people.

I met other men who shared just two things with me – they parented a child with a disability and they believed Jesus was their source of hope and joy.  All the other differences between us melted away.  Economics, ethnicity, educational background, geography, age – none of it mattered in light of our common experience of being held by God in Christ and living this life of disability.

Something even stranger happened.  These ‘as sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10)’ men who had been at this longer than I have seemed to know that my sadness at yet another hard circumstance was not permanent or evidence of doubt, and they would encourage me.  They also had been given insight into when sin, like bitterness or anxiety, was starting to take root, and they would exhort me and equip me to fight even as they fought for me.

And the fierce, frightening passions of young dads new to disability didn’t frighten me.  I know the flames they are walking through, and I know the Savior who can help them is very big and very strong.

Maybe the strangest thing of all – joy rises out of the depths of the sorrows related to disability.  New, masculine affections emerge that make both laughter and tears come quickly.  The pain is real and the joy is real. We know our King does all things well, even in the hardest of circumstances.

God has promised to supply every need of ours (Philippian 4:19) and in my life that has frequently been other godly men.

If you’re trying to do this life of disability alone, please stop, for your own sake as well as for your child with a disability, your other children, and your children’s mother.  Ask God to help you find godly men who will walk with you and help you. If you’ve been disappointed in how some men have behaved toward you, if you have felt abandoned even by your church, remember that only God is perfect and only he will never disappoint you.  Trust him to supply what you need.

And someday we’ll truly understand that this hard life was just a precursor to something beyond our imaginations:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV)

PRAY:  Lord, for the dad who takes no delight in Father’s Day today because of his child’s disability, please awaken him to the reality of your incredible goodness and mercy and strength.  Give him a man who will encourage and exhort and love him as Jesus taught us to love.  For the dad who lives in the joy of his new birth in Christ, give him eyes to see the man who needs a masculine, hope-filled, God-centered brother, and then equip him with the wisdom to truly help in ways that give life and hope.  Please, Father, show your awesome capacities to provide peace where there is no peace, and hope where despair has reigned too long, for the sake of your great name and the hope of those you call from death to life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

John Knight is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John is Director of Donor Partnerships at Desiring God and occasionally contributes to their blog on issues of disability. He also blogs on disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.
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  1. Thank you for this post from the mother of three sons and a husband with disabilities. While I am thankful for the Lord's presence and grace, such people as you mention did not exist to support them and my heart broke and re-broke as the hope and light when out of their eyes. I have found males in the Christian world to be anything but encouraging, unless they have gone through similar circumstances. Given the male tendency to "look strong", there is little opportunity to find that strength from another. As a wife and mother, I have to battle daily with the bitterness that tries to root in my heart because my family was destroyed because "we weren't trying hard enough". And I grieve for my sons coming up, for the arrogance and shallowness that they will have to battle with, not only in the church, but in their own hearts, if true change is to occur. To me, father's day is typically a day of grief. Thank you for making it a little lighter this year.

  2. As a father of a now 20 year old son with a severe learning disability I have been experiencing those Fathers Days for years. Its been something of an added challange for me as I have traveled this road mostly as a single parent as my son's mother was unable to cope with his diagnosis and so I have been the primary care giver during most of his life. Early on I would hear the comments on how great a person I must be to take this on or that so often used " God never gives us more than we can handle" response. Now, other than just immediate family I hear less and less as over the years people feel they don't know what else to say. I think when you have a disabled child there is some hope that as they grow they will somehow grow out of this but as a young adult it becomes more depressing to be around.
    The physical, emotional and financial strain that has been caused by having a disabled child has been devasting to multiple generations of two seperate families as we have tried to cope with his condition and its related issues.
    I love my son but I am sad to say that I no longer like being around him. The hopes of anticipated drug therapies that were talked about when he was a child look to still be decades away from an actual therapy so we expect him to spend most if not all of his adult life locked in this mind of a five year old.
    It sounds good to have this support network around but for many of us that is not an option that is available. I am curious to get to Heaven one day and find out why?